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"Unlucky 13" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Sep 1, 2015 | Books

James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series is a girlfriends’ story. They work together to solve murders, but so much of it is about the relationships between the women, which are very well drawn, possibly because Mr. Patterson has the sense to use a female co-writer, Maxine Paetro.  The club is currently comprised of San Francisco police detective Lindsay Boxer, medical examiner Claire Washburn, DA Yuki Castellano, and reporter Cindy Thomas. As the title indicates, this is the 13th in the series.

This ambitious little book has three plots going at once and I’m not entirely sure which is the main one. The one first introduced involves “belly bombs,” which, unfortunately, are exactly what they sound like. If you’re very squeamish, you might want to skip to the next paragraph right now. A belly bomb is a tiny little bomb that has been tucked into food and unwittingly – one assumes – ingested. In this case, the bomb reacts with their stomach acids and explodes. The person is blasted apart from the inside out.

So, Lindsay and her wonderful, adorable partner, Rich Conklin, have to figure out why someone at this particular burger chain is killing people and demanding ransom. What is his/her problem? What is this revenge for? But meanwhile, a psychopathic murderer has returned from off the grid and seeks to avenge her lover’s death on Lindsay, who, to be fair, did shoot and killed him. So, we can’t take our eyes off her for too long.

And then Yuki and her brand new husband, Jackson Brady – who is also Lindsay’s boss – are honeymooning on a cruise ship that is taken over by, you guessed it!, a band of ruthless killers, demanding ransom. It’s horrifying, but Brady saves the day and all is well.

Now, this is where I felt credibility stretch a little too much for my taste, which is very unusual for a Patterson book. But come on. Weren’t there enough plots running around? Couldn’t Yuki and Brady just enjoy their honeymoon and save the world in another book? But it was handled well, even if I do think it was – pardon me, but I must – overkill.

Now, if Mr. Patterson has a bad novel out on the market, I don’t know about it.  There are some I don’t like that much, but they’re still very well written. He knows how to structure a tight story and everything makes sense at the end.  But this one has something you rarely see in a Patterson novel: Loose ends.  For instance, there’s this woman who shoots her husband, she says in self-defense, but the terrified kids tell a different story. We know she is indicted and bail is refused, but that’s it. We never hear how that one plays out or even if the husband survives. So, what was the point? I guess there was one, but I missed it.

It happens again in a less dramatic way. What is first believed to be the second belly bombing victim turns out to be a probably suicide. But that’s all we know.  We never even get the ME’s final cause-of-death. And that one would have been so easy to tie up!

So, while it may not be the best-written of the series, Unlucky 13 is still a good book and an easy read. If you like the genre and/or the author, you’ll like it.